Monday, April 1, 2013

Roadtrip to Cagayan Valley and Island Trekking at Palaui and Calayan

March 26 - 31, 2013

Ready for a mapping expedition for the northeastern tip of the Philippines, a Tuesday afternoon, we headed on to Sampaloc, Manila to get a bus bound to Sta. Ana, Cagayan... the northeastern tip of the island of Luzon. It is the gateway to Palaui Island, a protected natural reserve and to Calayan Group of Islands, the islands scattered at Balintang Channel where the Pacific Ocean meets the warm waters of the West Philippine Sea. A 15-hour bus ride and a 654-kilometer road trip.

Leaving at 3:00PM from the bus station, we braced ourselves for a long overnight trip passing through the provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela, Kalinga, and Cagayan.

As we passed through Sta. Fe in Nueva Vizcaya, the steepest part of the highway to Cagayan at 841 MASL, we had a chance to see the beautiful orchids of the area and the Dalton Pass. The Dalton Pass is named after a US General gunned down by a Japanese sniper during the end of World War 2 and this location happened to be the last stand of the Japanese forces headed by Gen. Yamashita. The Dalton Pass pierces through the boundaries of 3 provinces: Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija.

The bus we rode made a shortcut. Instead of passing through Ilagan and Cabagan, Isabela, it took a route straight north to Kalinga then to Cagayan. The view at Tabuk, Kalinga is astounding which reminisces to the highlands seen on Scotland. We passed by the area at early dawn. Fortunately, it was a full moon and the mountains are illuminated by it and the view is still astounding. Too bad, our camera can't take a good photo at night time. So our readers who have seen or have photos of the mountains of Kalinga can flaunt it.

Day 1, Palaui Island

We reached Sta. Ana at sunrise the next day at around 6:15 AM and was greeted by the northernmost limit of the long and protective Sierra Madre Mountain Range of Luzon which stretches from Sta. Ana Cagayan, all the way down to Atimonan, Quezon.

Sta. Ana, Cagayan Sunrise and the Sierra Madre
The endpoint of the bus ride is at Sta. Ana's Public Market where you need to ride a tricycle 6 kilometers further north at San Vicente Pier so you can sign up for a boat ride to Palaui Island, a protected natural reserve as declared by Proclamation 447 of 1994.

It is worth noting though to negotiate with tricycle drivers here. The fee to San Vicente is only P15/pax. Tricycle #669 required us to pay an unbelievable Php 150 for a 6-kilometer paved ride. The culprit has been reported to CEZA, the governing cooperative of Sta. Ana and Palaui Island which they said they have reported to the tricycle cooperative of Sta. Ana Market. We are unsure though if appropriate actions has been made.

Upon reaching San Vicente, we headed directly to its visitors' center which is only a 50-meter walk from the pier so we can pay a required "visiting fee" of Php 50/pax. And if you are planning to trek Cape Engano at Palaui, you also need to pay them Php 300 for a guide fee and they will coordinate with the locals of the island for your guide. They have a strict rule of no guide, no trek and a guide should only handle a max of 4 people.

San Vicente Pier

After which, you need to get back to the pier to reserve or pay for a boat ride and a standard fee has already been established. There are many remote islands at Sta. Ana which surrounds the major island, Palaui. Each destination has a specified fee. Or if you want to go unlimited (go wherever you want), you can pay a Php 3,500 for a boat. See the price below for a max of 8 people:

  • Cape Engano - P1800
  • Anguib Beach - P1500
  • Siwangag - P1500
  • Puzo Rubo - P1800
  • Crocodile Island - P500
  • Punta Verde - P750, overnight P1000
  • Pugo Moro - P500
  • Unlimited - P3500

We were there to map Palaui Island and we will be trekking to Cape Engano so there is no reason for a boat ride to it. We opted to pay for the Punta Verde overnight and Anguib Beach boat ride for a total of P2,500

Punta Verde Nature Village

Punta Verde is the only village in Palaui Island where a tourist can stay overnight and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) is strict about this policy due to the reason that irresponsible tourists before were camping out anywhere but they leave trash around so the location must be centralized and this would be at Punta Verde where the "Nature Village" is located.

We left San Vicente port at 7:07 AM and we reached Punta Verde 20 minutes later. The Nature Village is a camping ground for which shelters were built by the locals themselves and is funded by CEZA.

The whole island of Palaui has no electric service and so staying in this island will be great for campers who would like to experience nature.

The main source of electricity on the island are car batteries charged all the way from Sta. Ana. The Nature Village in Punta Verde however has solar power to which it only powers up a few light bulbs and is turned off at 11:00PM.

Cellphone signal for Globe and Smart is available but is intermittent at Punta Verde. Other locations in Palaui has no signal at all.

In comparison with other islands I've been to in the Philippines, so far, Sta. Ana and Palaui will charge you an arm and a leg. Aside from a P150 camping fee if you brought a tent with you, you may be charged with a fee if you charge your cellphone, or laptop batteries. P250/pax will be charged if you'll be staying on their rooms/cottages. Food can be cooked by the locals ranging from P100 to P250 per pax per meal.

Aside from the mentioned trek guide fee, a required snorkeling guide is also implemented and is for a fee. Violation will result to a P1000 to P2000 penalty.

We brought our own tent and food so we only paid P150 for our overnight stay.

At 9:00AM, we started our trek to Cape Engano Lighthouse. Two trails are available. One is the Leonardo trail where you can side trip to Baritubot Falls and climb one of Palaui's highest peak and traverse to Cape Engano and the other is the Lagunsad trail which is easier as you will not be climbing but would be passing through along its shorelines. We used the Leonardo Trail and traversed to Lagunsad trail so we can map both trails.

Leonardo Trail

Lagunsad Trail
Baritubot Falls, a side trip from Leonardo Trail

In summary, Leonardo is colder as it is forested but possesses the challenge of climbing and descending steep areas while Lagunsad is shorter yet hotter due to few tree coverage as you'll be passing through beaches, a few forested trails and graze land. As you reach Cape Engano, which is the northernmost and most scenic area of the island, you can trek back to the trails or have your boatman arrange a boat ride back to Punta Verde.

Via Leonardo Trail, we reached Cape Engano Lighthouse at around 3:00PM. It may be reached faster depending on your pace. We were trekking while mapping so it took us longer to get there plus the scorching heat of the sun is so taxing as there was a few cloud coverage and windless weather when we trekked it.

The view as expected is jaw-dropping. The beauty of the Philippines is indeed a jewel.

Cape Engano Lighthouse

Dos Hermanas Island

Cape Engano Graze Land
We went back to Punta Verde via the Lagunsad trail and the trek took us about roughly 3 hours as we still mingled with the locals as we pass by their villages before we reached back the Nature Village.

After the 16.5-kilometer trek around the island, we pampered ourselves with the calm shore of Palaui under the full moon and ended the day at 11:00PM as we still have a long day the next day.

For more details of our mapping expedition to Palaui Island, you may go here:
Palaui Island and the Serene Cape Engano, a mountaineer and a beach bum's Paradise

Day 2, Island Hopping

We woke up at 5:00AM to cook our breakfast and headed on at around 6:00 A.M. for a boat ride to Calayan Islands, Anguib Beach of Sta. Ana, and Crocodile Island.

While at a shallow coral reef near Calayan, we snorkeled and was ecstatic to get pictures of these fishes we only see in aquarium back in Manila. A detailed article will follow in the next few days regarding our snorkeling experience.

For information on our sidetrip to Calayan Group of Islands, you may check out this article, Uncovering the treasures of Balintang Channel from Calayan Group of Islands

A 5-10 meter dive at a Coral reef near Calayan

We then headed back and checked on the Crocodile Island. The island is a small marble cliff island that is crocodile-shaped, hence its name. What fills up this island though are oysters. We made a short trek to its top but was warned not to go near its edges as the marble is chipping.

For more information regarding Crocodile Island, you can check out our article here Crocodile Island of Cagayan, an islet with many names.

We went to Siwangag Cove at the western side of Palaui which is only reachable by boat or an arduous 4-hour trek from Punta Verde. We were advised that this area will be closed as the reality TV show Survivor will use this area as well as Cape Engano starting May 2013.

Siwangag Cove
Lastly, we bummed around the white beach of Anguib. Located at the north eastern tip of Luzon, this beach can only be reached via a boat as the road to it is closed. Aside from being unpaved, the road is piercing through a private property. Entrance fee to the beach is P100/pax but you can stay and camp out overnight. There is a catering service in the island which costs P500/pax which is inclusive of meals for a day and a cottage.

Anguib beach is quiet as there are only few people who get here due to its location. The beach is a great place to unwind, relax and meditate.

For a more detailed information regarding Anguib Beach, you may Schadow1 Expeditions account here Anguib Beach, Tranquility at the Northeastern Tip of Luzon.
Anguib Beach, Tranquility at the Northeastern Tip of Luzon - See more at:

Anguib Beach
Other beaches available to check out is Jerolynda and Nangaramuan. The cheapest beach to go to is Nangaramuan as it can be accessed by land from San Vicente and is adjacent to Anguib only separated by hills and trees. When our boat passed by the Nangaramuan, it was cramped out with people.

At 2:00PM, we went back to San Vicente, washed up and hurried on to Sta. Ana Public Market to catch a van back to Tuguegarao City. The last trip is 2:30PM and costs P180/pax.

We reached Tuguegarao City at 5:30PM and stayed at the Grand Victoria Lodge for P600 per night on an airconditioned room. It was Maundy Thursday and so most establishments are closed. We dined in at Culinare, a few meters away from the bus station back to Manila where we had great pizza and the famous delicacy of Tuguegarao, the Batil Patung, a local pancit (noodles) stuffed with pork rinds (chicharon), ground meat, cabbage, carrots, topped with sunny side-up egg which can be made more tastier with onions, vinegar, siling labuyo, and soy sauce. Add to it its egg soup.

Batil Patung
Day 3, Callao Cave

The next day at 7:00AM, we headed on to the main tricycle station at Don Domingo Public Market to get a tricycle ride to Callao Cave at Penablanca. It is 25 kilometers away from Tuguegarao and about an hour away. The trike fee to Callao is P40/pax one way and you need to wait until the tricycle is 7 person full! The ride is bumpy as soon as you reach the town near Callao as the road is unpaved. The trike may wait for you or you can text him to come back at a specific time.

Again, do take note that some tricycle drivers may fool you to pay a very steep price as they would say the ride to Callao is a special trip. It is not. Many people ride from Tuguegarao to Callao as the locals purchase their supplies from Don Domingo market at Tuguegarao.

As soon as you reach the jump off to Callao, you need to pay P20/pax registration fee to tourist officials then ride a boat for P20/pax two-way to cross the river. A young guide will be introduced to you to which you can pay any amount as a donation. I am impressed with the guide on how she identified the stalactites and stalagmites and the other formations. I gave a P200 donation. I don't know the standard though. I just find it cruel as I saw some people have not given any donation as these kids are there to guide, memorized their lines and is not compensated for their great performance.

For more information regarding spelunking to the Callao cave, you may check out our article here: Callao Cave System, one of the largest cave systems in the Philippines is here at Cagayan

Callao Cave, 1st chamber
Day 4, City tour

It is our last day and we roamed the city for a photo walk and food trip. One of the panciteria we tried is Jomar Panciteria where we experienced once more the authentic Pancit Batil Patung. This time, without the coziness of a classy restaurant. All localized-style dining where you would need to chop off your own condiments.

Preparing our condiments for the Pancit Batil Patung.
By late afternoon we went on and headed on to the bus station and went our way back to Manila for another 15-hour ride.

If you happen to seek for peace and serenity and tired of cramped beaches, Palaui Island and Sta. Ana, Cagayan are some of the locations you need to be at. With its seemingly untouched beaches and protected landscape. These islands are a true charm.

And if you are into spelunking, Callao Cave system of Penablanca, Cagayan is one of the largest and beautiful cave system in the Philippines that is a must-visit for adventurers!


1500 - Bus ride at GV Florida Sampaloc Station

Day 2
0700 - Arrive Sta. Ana Cagayan Public Market, register and get a boat at San Vicente
0730 - Arrive Palaui Island at Punta Verde
0900 - Trek to Cape Engano via Leonardo Trail
1300 - Reach Cape Engano, photo shoot, socials
1500 - Leave Cape Engano via Lagunsad Trail
1800 - Reach Punta Verde, socials

Day 3
0600 - Leave for Island hopping, Calayan, Siwangag, Anguib, Crocodile
1400 - Arrive Sta. Ana port
1430 - Leave for Tuguegarao (SAVFTODAI vans)
1730 - Arrive Tuguegarao, Check-in to Hotel
1900 - Socials

Day 4
0700 - Leave for Callao Cave (Don Domingo Tricycle Station)
0800 - Arrive Callao Cave, trek
1100 - Get back to hotel
1300 - City tour

Day 5
1200 - Prepare to leave for Manila


Day 1, Palaui
Bus 650
Boat ride 3000*
Camp out 150/tent
Charging fees 30
Meals 100
Tour Guide 300**
Trike Ride 15
Sta. Ana Day Pass 50

Day 2, Island Hopping
Anguib Beach Fee 100
Trike Ride 15
Van to Tuguegarao 180
Meals 40

Day 3, Callao Cave
Hotel 600
Meals 200
Callao Tricycle Back and Forth 80
Callao Registration 20
Callao Boat 20
Tour Guide 200
City Transportation 20

Day 4, City tour
Meals 100
Bus ride 700
Hotel 600
Total Expenses Php 7,170
*can be shared by up to 8 persons.
**can be shared by up to 4 persons

Joey (boatman, Sta. Ana) +63 916 2532759
Beloy Gagote (Team Leader, Palaui Tourism, a local) +63 926 3323653
Allan (Cape Engano Guide) +63 916 8625548
Alyza Danao (Callao Guide) +63 906 9395871

Over 100 waypoints and tracks gained from our road trip to Cagayan Valley and the mapping expedition of Palaui Island has been contributed to +OpenStreetMap Philippines  for free use of Filipinos who would like to use this data for navigation and humanitarian purposes.

Openstreetmap Philippines Map (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)

How to use for your Navigation System (link)

View Cagayan Road Trip in a larger map

For a more detailed account of Schadow1 Expeditions' Palaui Island and Cagayan Valley Mapping Expedition, check on the links below:

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